Relatives of churchgoers who were attacked by gunmen during Pentecost Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church, gather as health workers attend to victims brought in by ambulance after the attack in Owo, Nigeria, June 5, 2022. Reports said at least 50 people were killed in the attack. CNS photo/ Reuters, Stringer

Nigeria slaughter hits home for African-Canadians

  • June 8, 2022

With 22 dead and about 50 people injured in a Pentecost Sunday massacre in a Catholic church in northwestern Nigeria, African Catholics in Canada are left shaking their heads and praying for peace.

Even if the African-Canadians who gather at the African Catholic Community in Holy Name Church along the Danforth in Toronto come from at least a dozen different countries, the situation in Nigeria touches the hearts of everyone in the parish, said African Catholic Community pastoral council chair Cleopas Leke.

“The concern is about all Africans, all Africa,” Leke told The Catholic Register. “How come we Africans always feel that we are not secure?”

The security African immigrants feel in Canada is always shadowed by the insecurity they left behind, Cleopas said.

“We have family living there. We have brothers living there. All our soul is there,” he said. “If they kill people in Africa, they kill us. When there’s no security, there’s no security for our friends, our relatives, our families. We cannot support living in a world now that is still on fire. We don’t get that. We never get that.”

Though the community that Fr. Alex Osei, national director of the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle in Toronto, pastors at St. Andrew’s Church in Etobicoke is mainly Congolese, the attack in Nigeria still hits close to home for African Catholics from all over the continent.

“As an African, when you hear, especially as Christians, that this is happening — a shooting in a church during Mass — everybody is worried and talking about it,” Osei said.

Aid to the Church in Need, which has highlighted violence against Christians in Nigeria for years, called on “political and religious leaders in the world to firmly and explicitly condemn this terrorist attack.”

“The identity of the perpetrators remains unknown while the situation has left the community devastated,” Diocese of Ondo director of communications Fr. Augustine Ikwu told ACN. “The bishop appeals that we remain calm, be law-abiding and pray for peace and normalcy to return to our community, state and country.”

At an Aid to the Church in Need press conference a week before the shootings, Archbishop of Kaduna Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso called on Nigeria’s government to act on the root causes of out-of-control violence in Nigeria.

“The government has failed us completely. It is the absence of good government that is causing this. Bandits, Boko Haram, kidnappings — these are all symptoms of injustice, of the corruption that is in the system. Unless we can get to the root of the issue, we will be fighting a losing battle.”

“Nowhere seems to be safe again in our country, not even the sacred precincts of a church,” said Archbishop Lucius Ugorji, president of the Nigerian Catholic bishops’ conference.

The Archbishop of Lagos placed the blame at the feet of the Nigerian government.

“Security is in shambles, the economy has failed as the majority of Nigerians are living in extreme poverty, and even the trend in politics gives a lot of concern to the average Nigerian,” said Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins, calling on leaders to step up efforts to prevent similar attacks.

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